Last year I had the privilege to support Hasslefree miniatures at Salute with a sci-fi dungeon crawler game of my own design using the SH3D terrain I have incredibly slowly and painfully been building under the name "RandomSpaceQuest" - hopefully the name gives it away really, it's the Warhammer Quest card generated dungeon idea in space.
Now it's fair to say it was a tough run-up (up until 2am every night for weeks getting game quality paint slapped on), and that I made it harder on myself by exerting too much control over the thing - it certainly wouldn't have gotten done without Soldado's help and I should have used others more. It's also fair to say that many games were had, and I think/hope they were enjoyed, to wit:
However... personally the whole thing was a massive burning failure (which is why it's taken fifteen months to post about it) because the only objective I had, apart from turning up and putting games on, was to publicise randomplatypus.com and increase the visitors/users just a bit. And it didn't. At all.
We had dice, t-shirts, games, business cards even, and a back corner position int he hall where nobody noticed us - especially my little one-piece-of-scenery-at-a-time on a 7x6 black cloth table space. It was ridiculous. I think most passers-by completely failed to notice I even had a game going. Overall the scenery was rushed, the game itself needed work (I got close though), and I didn't achieve the objective.
So that led to some things happening (or not happening in the case of me doing anything hobby related for a year). I detached from Random Platypus (who do fine things, but not in a direction I want to be part of any more), I skipped involvement with any game in 2018, I started making some serious effort developing real publishable rules (I've got about four in the works now), and I've decided to come back to the SH3D build and give it a more honest shot - hopefully in 2019 by the grace of SLW.
In some future post I'll go into this in more detail, but I want to add my initial analysis post-2017 which I still stand by. Failure is the best teacher right?
Things I learned in relation to running a game:
- Spectacle and uniqueness is everything in attracting the punters, pitched battles aren't where it's at
- Said punters will arrive certainly no sooner than 11 since they all want to spend the first hour at least doing the shopping and finding the bargains of dubious existence
- Said punters also don't want to be playing a game the whole damned day, they want an hourish game or two before they go home
- Said punters also come in ones and twos and rarely fours so a game that can be joined in progress is best
- Loads of people will show interest but not actually approach - you have to draw them in
- If five people want to play your game then your game is now a five player game. Be able to flex up or down, just never turn someone away
- Position in the hall probably doesn't matter, but having a good blurb in the programme does
- Rules need to be very simple. no, simpler than that. Two page rules is good, but even better is rules printed on the cards (or whatever) as they use them.
- Actually only you need to know the rules really, the players just need to know what their options and chances are and be given a meaningful experience of choice and tension
- Don't be afraid to jettison rules mid game
- You only need one person to run a game, but you need more than one person to run games so more than one person needs to be invested in it
- You need so much time to get a game ready
- Don't create feel-bads - hurt the players but don't kill them unless they persist with bad choices, don't randomly destroy them, give them a chance to change up (I liken this to the call of duty health mechanism)